Kieran Yates; Journalist, author, music critic, producer zine maker and all round supreme woman-crush for us here at BabyFace. Yates is a frequent voice on the The Guardian, Fader, i-D and Vice where she writes about everything from electronic music to muslim women getting empowered through kickboxing. There is one theme that does, however, skewer Yates' back catalogue: Immigrant cultures and lives, and this subject is most gorgeously realised in her most recent zine, British Values.
The cover of British Values is a intentionally photoshopped-looking Theresa May who stares out at the reader from underneath a very fetching raspberry coloured hijab. A speech bubble emanates from her forehead: "Must admit, my cheekbones look banging in this." If that doesn't prompt a snigger, you're probably hollow inside. The Tory party's home secretary might seem like an unlikely cover girl- fleeky bone structure aside- for a British-Asian journalist who's oeuvre is marked by an unflagging devotion to giving minorities voices their deserved pace in mainstream media. It's an important (and hilarious) read and it's presence is made even more poignant by Yates' own experience with losing control of her own stories.
In 2015 Yates created a 12-minute long documentary about the 'gaysain' scene and the Muslim drag queens who serve at the scene's figureheads- the documentary just about winded the internet and slapped the short-film industry upside its head. The short, entitled Muslim Drag Queens, was created by Yates and shot by Marcus Plowright for the The Guardian and centred on Ali, a Pakistani asylum-seeker as he began to prepare for his debutant as a drag queen. One of the documentaries heroes was Asifa Lahore, the UK's first out-and-proud gay, Muslim drag artist, who's taboo lifestyle sent shockwaves through London's Muslim communities. An idea for a sequential film was subsequently sold out by The Guardian to a third party (Channel 4) and they got Gandalf (Ian) in to do the voice over for extra atmosphere points and conveniently appropriated both of Yates' protagonists. Despite a loophole existing within Yates' original contract with The Guardian that allow for them to essentially pilfer her idea, she was (as any sane person would be) vocal about her disappointment. She told Dazed, “It is crucial that minorities are allowed to tell their stories. It’s our capitaI… It is unacceptable that "minorities" are used for their insight and first-hand experience into worlds which the mainstream can’t access. This is unacceptable practice.”
And yet, somehow Yates rises above it; never embittered and always empowered her work is both celebratory and challenging.
From a semi-nude Zayn Malik page 3 spread (woof!), to Uber drivers talking us through their musical hot-tips and a suitably trendy "Asian Apparel" advert that pokes fun at the lack of brown faces in fashion advertising, Yates' razor sharp wit is evident on every page of the zine. Inspired by magazines from her youth, like Super Super and Smash Hits, Yates worked with designers Tom Lloyd and New York designer Amad Ilyas to ensure the zine's look straddled both DIY zine-levels of fun and the slickness of coffee table style magazines in order to both ground and elevate the content. As well as the lampooning of David Cameron 'newspeak' (the title is taken from Cameron's landmark speech on extremism last year) there are pertinent stories from voices that are more often than not muted my the British mainstream media; one British Iranian woman's attempts to comprehend the UK's disgusting beauty double-standards and musician, Kindness shedding light on what it feels like to be of dual Indian and British heritage as a young boy growing up in the 85% white town of Peterborough. From experienced journalist to wet-behind-the-ears creatives, Yates' team all shared one thing in common- their experiences as an immigrants living in a Conservative Britain.
Most recently Yates has been shortlisted for The Words by Women Culture Writer of the year award, and her Twitter would suggest (not only that her mum is jokes) but also that another documentary is in the pipeline. That's the beauty of Kieran's work - whether it's her championing young brown talent via her writing or calling on young voices to speak up, (in her 2011 book Generation Vexed) she's creating platforms, everywhere, for others to stand and be heard on. Yates' UK is a UK we want to be a part of, but while she works on that, welcome to the club Kieran.